My hometown is Dalton, Georgia.
It sits in the northwest corner of the state, about 30 miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee and about 90 miles north of Atlanta.
Prior to the interstate system, many Florida-bound motorists had to pass through Dalton on “Dixie Highway”—U.S. 41.
Around the 1930s, local women began displaying their peacock-covered, chenille bedspreads along the highway for tourists to buy. These bedspreads became so popular, the stretch of highway through town was known as “Peacock Alley”.
However, Dalton's manufacturing focus and reputation evolved in time from bedspreads to broadloom. Today, Dalton is “the carpet capital of the world”.
"Voice" is a complex topic.
A lot of time and energy is invested by people and organizations in search of their “voice”.
Leaders seek a voice.
Artists seek a voice.
Companies and brands seek a voice.
Even cities and towns seek a voice.
Each of us seeks to “find our voice” in our family. Our community. Our careers.
But what do we mean by “voice”? And what does it mean when we “find our voice”?
Like our fingerprint, our voice gives us identity in a cluttered, look-alike, sound-alike world.
When someone has “found their voice,” we typically mean they are communicating in ways that distinguish them.
For some, their voice is a direct reflection of who they are. Like a politician or leader giving a speech.
For others, their voice is an indirect reflection of who they are. Like a novelist or actor channeling pieces of themselves through the characters they embody.
We believe our voice is something discovered and plucked from the garden of our creative life.
Our voice is not a piece of us. It is the unique mixture of many pieces within us revealed as a collective—a portfolio.
Which means our voice cannot be found. It can only be cultivated through the collecting and mixing of many independent things: our influences, interests and interior voices.
Which also means our voice evolves over time as we add to it.
Listen to U2’s War album. Then listen to Zooropa. Same band. But their “voice” has evolved.
Same with David Bowie. Bob Dylan. Allen Ginsberg. T.S. Eliot. William Carlos Williams. Tom Hanks. Sofia Coppola. And any other artist you can name.
As artists, we are always becoming. And we never actually arrive.
Which is why we’re driven to keep writing, painting, performing, etc.
The rough edges and inconsistencies in our current work push us to iron them out in future works. Today’s failures birth tomorrow’s successes.
Even the “voice” of a community, like my hometown, evolves in time.
Like a patchwork quilt, the collection of pieces within us blends to produce a richer, more beautiful whole.
Which brings us back to our creative voice.
It is not a single tomato plant growing in a garden.
It is the garden, with its unique variety, color and flavor.
Kind of like Peacock Alley.
What makes your voice beautiful is its texture. Its complexity. Its richness. Its rawness. Its vulnerability.
It’s like a beautiful harmony being sung—a collection of voices blending in tension, held in place by a root note.
Your voice is a portfolio of your influences, interests and personas.
It is uniquely you. And it will evolve in time.
How are you cultivating it?
What will you add to it today?
I'm Keith and I blog about the creative life. Tell your creative, artsy friends about it. Even better, tell those that think they are "uncreative" to read an essay or two!